It all began with a dream—a dream born in the mind of a young boy with stars in his eyes. Who says a kid from the outskirts of Houston, Texas can’t make it big? With a heart and ambition as big as the Lone Star state, it’s no wonder Baldemar Rodriguez’s dream is now coming to fruition.
“For as long as I can remember, I've always been intrigued with cinema and television—often dreaming as a young boy of how great it would be to be in the movies as an actor, or actually produce and direct movies.
My mother bought me a used camcorder from a pawn shop for my 12th birthday. It was one of the happiest moments of my life! I started making home movies…homemade commercials starring my family and my pets. I couldn't put the camcorder down! My mom claims I would often sleep with it, but I don't remember that; although, it was probably true,” Rodriguez recalls.
Rodriguez grew up in Pasadena, Texas; although, his humble beginnings began in Mexico, where he was born. He came to the United States when he was four years old. His parents, Elva and Baldemar Rodriguez, left Mexico, in search of a better life for their family. Rodriguez recounts just how challenging the transition was for the family.
“My father came to the United States first, and got a job as a janitor for the Pasadena Independent School District. After about 6 months, he sent for us. We lived in a duplex home, and began a new life with new friends and a new language.
My parents were living the American dream. They both had jobs, they provided for us, and we began to assimilate the all-American way of life. We never went without shelter or food. I knew my parents were homesick. They left their parents and other family members back in Mexico, and it was hard for them—especially living in a new country where they didn't know the language.” Like any other parents, they hoped their son would grow up to be a doctor, or an attorney. However, they soon recognized that he had a strong inclination for the arts, especially acting—and Rodriguez knew he had the support of his parents.
“My parents were aware of my interest in the arts. They encouraged me to be in the choir, as well as theatre classes. When I was in high school, I began telling them that I wanted to study theatre and film. They told me that they didn't understand exactly what that was, but that they were happy with whatever career I chose. More importantly, they told me that they were proud of me for finishing high school and going on to college.”
Sadly, Rodriguez’s mother died in 2002 after losing a 5-year battle with cancer. He says he’s confident that his mother is wearing an angelic smile from above, knowing that her son’s filmmaking dreams are coming true after years of hard work. While many admire him, Rodriguez says that his father is, without a doubt, his biggest fan!
So how did a young boy with only a vision become so successful in the field he used to only dream about becoming a part of? As any artist in the competitive world of entertainment would say, it takes patience, hard work, and perseverance. Rodriguez has directed and produced commercials and PSA’s for ABC, NBC, and Telefutura, among others. He worked at Houston’s NBC affiliate, KPRC-TV, as an editor, and news photographer for six years—that’s when he traded the newsroom for the seventh most populous country in the world. He traveled to Nigeria in 2006 after being commissioned to produce the feature film, Grey Focus. He recalls what that African adventure was like.
"Producing Grey Focus was a great experience for me. I had the opportunity to travel to Lagos, Nigeria and spend several months there working on the movie. The filming conditions were very challenging, but the rewards of filming on-location for a destination movie, and the great people I had the opportunity to work with, were worth it."
Rodriguez earned his theater degree from the School of Theater at the University of Houston in 1998 and his film degree from the School of Communication’s Film Program in 2000. Only a year later, he was selected as a Media Artist by the Texas Commission on the Arts. It was an honor well-deserved after his mostly volunteer creative work in film became apparent in the Hispanic, as well as professional communities of Houston—and with honor comes credibility.
Any director knows art isn’t easy. Convincing others to transform a script into a motion picture doesn’t happen overnight. Rodriguez knows all too well just how challenging that feat can be. He says it’s been a long and patient journey to success in producing his latest project, In Search of the American Dream.
“During the last 10 years of my professional life, I've had a hard time convincing people about my vision to produce quality motion pictures. Film and television production is a scarce industry in Houston, Texas, so it was hard to get this project off the ground at first.
I wrote this script many years ago, and in 2006 I tried to begin pre-production of the movie, which was initially titled El Nacional, but no one wanted to get involved. They claimed the concept was too politically controversial.”
That’s when Mr. Lupe Fraga and Michele Fraga of Tejas Office Products, Inc. stepped in, and things began to happen. They were the original supporters of Rodriguez’s project, and encouraged others to follow in their footsteps. Filming began on July 26, 2008. Three years later, the movie finished production, and two years after that, the movie finished post-production.
In Search of the American Dream began as a simple synopsis while Rodriguez attended The Producers Academy in Tucson, Arizona in 2004. He was selected to represent Texas as a Latino producer in the National Association of Latino Independent Producers' (NALIP) Signature Program.
“I’ve always wanted to make a movie about a Mexican-American family, and I needed to think about the commercial viability of such a story while writing the treatment at the Academy. I remembered reading about the various detention centers all over the country housing illegal immigrants and their children, and the agony that the families in that predicament faced. That’s when I decided to make this my main theme. Little did I know at the time that the near future would create a national awareness about illegal immigration. The timing was right. Immigration is a hot topic; the debate is both heated and divided, and spoken of in every political arena,” Rodriguez says.
Rodriguez is not only the director of In Search of the American Dream, he also wrote the screenplay, and is the lead actor in the film. He attributes much of his success to NALIP, as well as downright determination and ambition.
“As a filmmaker, my goals are infinite. I plan to promote our heritage, our culture, and our endless talents by writing, producing, and directing new and innovative storylines through the art of motion pictures.”